By Aznan Mat Piah
More often to a layman, the academics are looked upon as those in the class or category of people who are at a great distance from society. No wonder most of the time, they are described as being from the menara gading or the ivory tower. However, scholars are frequently reminded that universities cannot exist in a vacuum. They have a responsibility to society and the nation.
A true academic should be the bridge through which students and scholars are connected to the society. Central to these are the continuous efforts to attain and distribute knowledge, as the wealth of scholars should be in the knowledge that they unfold.
In sharing his thoughts on “Scholar’s Insight” at the Communication Research Webinar (CORENA 2020) on Thursday (3 September), Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid expressed that Malaysian academics could do more to tell the outside world of our stories or achievements.
“Share your stories in order to be more visible and to nurture friendship with other countries,” the professor told the audience.
He alluded that the “Malaysian element is still missing in our research”. Communication academics have set up an association of their own (Malaysian Association of Communication Educators or MACE), which brought communication academics together for sharing of ideas on research and writing. “This should be the voice where community leaders could look forward for ideas and opinions,” he remarked.
What the professor shared has great significance particularly in terms of what more Communication academics could do to contribute to the larger interest of society and knowledge base where they not only teach and contribute to the practice, but also in carrying out meaningful research that could lead to theory building in communication domain and scholarship which could be shared widely with other scholars in enriching the field of study.
During the webinar session, the professor himself shared on screen some of the visuals on prominent political and social leaders whom he had personally interviewed over the years from the early days after Independence, to show their involvement and association in the country’s development with a link to communication study.
In doing this he was highlighting the landscape of communication role and his attempt to put on record certain thoughts and ideas that scholars could bring out from such personalities and individuals to share with society.
Communication education in Malaysia began sometime in early 1970s, almost five decades ago, when the Department of Communication was set up in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) which was then followed by the School of Mass Communication in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) or Institut Teknologi MARA (ITM) then, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) too had established its own Communication Department following that.
Later on in the 1980s and 1990s most public and private universities including International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), had established their own department of communication or began to introduce Communication programme as part of social or human sciences study. Interestingly, the communication programme in Universiti Putra Malaysia (Universiti Pertanian Malaysia then) that began many years ago was largely geared towards meeting the agricultural development needs of the nation.
The early days saw the universities’ engagement of media practitioners, social leaders and policy makers in developing their communication programme to be relevant to the needs of the nation.
Over the past years since Communication education became a field of study at the universities in Malaysia, there have been several development and progress that took place in terms of the different programmes offered and modifications carried out by the respective institutions in keeping with the needs of society, industry and the nation, as well as in adapting to the global changes and the new technology.
Indeed, it was a colourful and an interesting journey for both Communication scholars and the institutions of higher learning offering the programme. The years ahead promise to witness greater challenges in meeting the changing needs and in establishing a significant mark in the field of study as implied by the professor. ***
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